I read in the news today where a family in Oklahoma is being threatened with death for the crime of … protesting the distribution of religious materials in secular, state-run primary schools.
Now, I’m a Christian. I’d like people to know that, and to know my Savior, and to know the God of the Universe. I will be more than happy to talk to you about that.
But I am also a citizen of the secular United States, with its secular institutions, and its secular schools.
No one religion can be permitted to represent the faith of all United States citizens. No one religion can speak for all believers. No one religion can be put in primacy over all other religions, or even over neutral, secular policies and goals.
In the case I’m referring to (http://the-daily.buzz/atheist-mom-complains-about-school-bible-issue-death-threats-ensue/), a school in Oklahoma permitted a primary school teacher to put free Bibles on her desk; the teacher then placed social pressure on students to take a Bible for their own.
I think that’s wrong. It’s wrong to distribute any kind of religious materials, whether they are Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or from the First Church of Satan, period. Schools should and must be places free of any kind of religious indoctrination.
I do not think there is any problem with schools using a variety of religious materials in the neutral, scholarly study of religions qua religions. For example, an age-appropriate Religious Studies class that studies major religions of the world (or even all religions) and that provides, for study, Bibles and Korans and other religious materials—that’s perfectly fine, because the religions are being studied. It’s not proselyting.
But in this case in Oklahoma, it went further. The family was threated with violence and death. The threat was coming from the community who apparently felt that removing a sectarian religious book from public schools was wrong.
Can kids still bring their Bibles to school? Yes. They’re a personal book, like many other things kids bring—pencils, calculators, and so on. If kids want to read them in school during their non-assigned time, that’s fine. If kids want to talk to their fellow students about their religious faith, that’s also fine, within limits—as long as no bullying is going on.
That apparently isn’t good enough. The students and parents somehow decided that they needed to teach the atheist parent and family a lesson about Christian love, Christian charity, Christian acceptance, Christian tolerance, and Christian social values.
Now, I think religion is an important part of life. I think religious values are important and can be shared with a wider audience. But there is simply no place in American society and education for any one religion, no matter how “popular,” to be a force for bullying and shame.
I am deeply ashamed of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who have done this, and I apologize to my fellow Americans for the bad manners and regrettable behavior of my own brethren. And if there are any laws broken due to this slander and these threats of violence, I encourage the law to fully investigate, charge, and prosecute these people making these threats.
Being a “Christian” does not give you exemption from obeying the law, or even simply having the good manners to respect and accommodate those around you who do not believe as you do.